The functionalisation of methane to a high value chemical has been achieved by German chemical company Grillo after years of intensive research. The new process leads to high purity methanesulfonic acid (MSA) by direct sulfonation of methane with sulfur trioxide. Startup of large scale production is planned for 2019.
Methane is the main component of natural gas and is, thus far, primarily being burned for heat and energy. Industry and science has been searching intensively for a material utilisation of methane. Besides direct sulfonation, which has now been achieved by Grillo, research focuses on direct oxidation of methane to methanol and oxidative coupling to ethylene.
Grillo’s Chemicals Division has solved the challenge of methane’s limited reactivity thanks to a tailored reaction environment and specific activators. The process has been continuously optimised and now achieves almost full conversion at mild reaction conditions.
The process, called Grillo-Methane-Sulfonation, is highly cost competitive. It is based on natural gas and sulfur trioxide (SO3) as feedstocks and is free of environmentally problematic intermediate and byproducts.
Methanesulfonic acid is a modern, green product. It is a very strong acid that is not oxidative; it is readily biodegradable and toxicologically unproblematic. MSA is being used in the electroplating, electronics, industrial cleaning and pharmaceutical industries. It experiences strong overall growth, and at a significant scale, potential applications for MSA are virtually endless.
Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling
Read the article online at: https://www.energyglobal.com/downstream/gas-processing/21062016/grillo-werke-successfully-converts-methane-into-methanesulfonic-acid-3556/